School board replaces adviser
Change occurs after column censored, prior review imposed
WISCONSIN — A high school newspaper’s year-long battle against censorship and prior review took a turn for the worst with the replacement of their adviser.
Beginning this fall, twelve-year adviser Scott Blanchard will no longer advise the D.C. Everest High School newspaper, The Jet, or teach the school’s journalism classes. Though both the principal and members of the school board characterize Blanchard’s replacement as a voluntary resignation, Blanchard says he is being replaced against his will.
Blanchard and his newspaper staff’s troubles began when a controversial column by student Chris Taber ran in the paper. The column jokingly described an imagined romantic encounter between Taber and the assistant principal, Dawn Bratt. The column subsequently earned him a suspension for sexual harassment. He later publicly apologized to Bratt, but not before attracting the attention of the local media.
The administration confiscated all 1,400 of the papers the column appeared in and soon after implemented a prior review policy for the paper. The newspaper staff will now have to submit each article to the principal for review before publication.
Blanchard expressed reservations about working under the prior review policy, and suggested in a memo that if the school board insisted on enforcing it they should consider finding a new adviser. After talking the situation over with the student newspaper staff, however, he rethought his position and decided to remain as adviser. He said he then submitted a list of possible compromises to the administration as ways to work around the prior review policy.
He said the administration chose not to accept his suggestions and replaced him as adviser instead.
Student editors of the newspaper are divided about whether they will work at the paper next year without Blanchard as their adviser.
Editor Jessica Roble said the staff’s initial reaction was not to return without Blanchard, but most have since decided that “for the sake of the paper and the sake of the school” they will work for the paper again, she said.
Roble said Blanchard “taught us everything we needed to know about journalism.”
Fellow editor Kelly Tesch had a contrasting reaction to Blanchard’s absence, saying she is unwilling to give the new adviser a chance. “I won’t have as much fun or do as good a job,” she said.
She said if she decides to return to the paper it will only be because journalism fits into her schedule.
Blanchard said he is “disappointed and upset” with the outcome of the situation, but enjoyed his twelve years as paper adviser.
Fall 1996, reports, Wisconsin